Viking River Cruise-Apr./May 2013 (15)

Sunday, May 05, 2013-Day 16
We had a leisurely breakfast as there was nothing major scheduled for the morning. The ship had left Nuremberg last night en route for Bamberg, and continued travel along the canal. However, we had been told that due to a major event, a huge marathon run, happening in Bamberg, we would not be able to dock at the scheduled place or do the scheduled activities. This was indeed a shame, for Bamberg was one of the few cities in Germany not destroyed by allied bombings. As such it is the largest old town in Germany to retain its medieval structures. Because of this, it was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1993. It was a shame we were not able to see it, but it gives us one more reason to come back to this gorgeous part of Germany. Instead of a tour of this old medieval city, we would now be shown the Seehoff Palace, just outside the city.
At 10.30 our cruise director Vlad informed us of a trivia contest happening in the lounge,  so we, Don and Lynore mosied up to take a peek. Along with Gloria, our naturopath friend from Seattle, we formed a formidable team. Winners of the contest would be informed at the briefing tonight and presented with their liquid prize. More on that later.
About 11.45 the Idun docked near a huge pile of scrap metal on a dock in downtown Bamberg. It was to be our temporary docking place. We had lunch then boarded the buses at 1.30 pm. We were off to visit Seehoff Palace, a beautiful country home just outside the town of Bamberg. At the same time that we boarded the buses, the ship left its moorings for Hassfurt where it would wait until we re-boarded later in the day.
The ride to the palace was a short one. The entry to the pace was impressive as the palace (really a very large country home) sat on a rise and we looked up to it as we entered the grounds.

Seehoff Palace From The Entrance.

Seehoff Palace From The Entrance.

Because of the restructuring of the tour, our guid ‘fessed up that she new little about this place. We appreciated that, and as such, she was asked no awkward questions by the group. However, what she did, (and this was no mean feat) was to translate from German to English, what the local guide told us. We toured the house and it was very lovely. I especially liked a little angel painted on the ceiling of what must have been the ballroom. He was shooting an arrow from a bow. No matter from which point in the room you viewed him, he was always pointing his arrow at you.

The Angel On The Ceiling

The Angel On The Ceiling

Basically, the history of this place was it was built as a country retreat by some rich folk, who lost their fortunes and had to sell the house. Later, they regained their wealth and re-purchased their home to take care of it and install the gorgeous gardens for which the place became famous. Sadly, the gardens are no longer here but acres of grass and parkland. Our guide toured us around the grounds and did he best to give us as much info as she had been able to muster since hearing about her changed tour venue. At four pm we were all taken to the large fountain which erupted right at four with water going everywhere. It was a good sight, but Bellagios it was not.

Waiting For The Fountain At Four

Waiting For The Fountain At Four

Befoer the bus left, we managed to squeeze in an ice-ream at the cafeteria. The treat was lovely but the seat was even more welcome. At 5.30 our bus left for the ship and we boarded. As we headed in for dinner later on, we were told that there was abig problem with the air-conditioning on the ship but they were working on it. After a hot dinner, in more ways than one, we headed for our rooms and crashed! Yet another good day was had by all in spite of the changes.
Tomorrow we dock at Wurzburg.
Goodbye for now and God bless.

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Viking River Cruise-Apr./May 2013 (10)

Tuesday, April 30-Day 11

I felt a nudge at 6 am this morning. No, it wasn’t Cynthia moving me over to my own side of the bed. Rather, it was the Idun docking at the Viking wharf in Vienna. As I stretched out a hand and partly peeled back the curtain, I could see the impressive skyline of modern Vienna across the river from our boat.

We had a light breakfast and at 9 am we boarded the bus for the tour of the city. Soon, even though we were in the morning rush, we reached the ring road which circles the city centre and contains most of the important and historic buildings of the city. The building below now houses the central library but adjacent to it is the home of the Lipizzaner stallions. As we wandered through the area, several crossed our path, being led from their training area back to the stables. I managed to catch a glimpse of one in the stable area and got this pic and a tiny video clip.

Lipizzan Stallion In Stable

Lipizzan Stallion In Stable

Huge Central Library Vienna

Huge Central Library Vienna

The region’s most influential dynasty, the Habsburgs, came into power in 1273, and for 600 years they expanded their empire by marriage and force. Their influence can be see everywhere in this city, through their massive summer homes and palaces.

Our guide Petra took us on a gentle walking tour though the centre of the old part of the city. Once again narrow streets with pastel coloured buildings contrasted with broad, tree lined avenues flanked by massive houses and palaces. This city looks so opulent and it pulses with energy.

Stephansdom (St Stephen Cathedral), Vienna

Stephansdom (St Stephen Cathedral), Vienna (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once in the city centre we arrived at the massive cathedral of St Stephen, named after the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who was stoned to death because of his belief. We were given a half an hour of free time to explore this beautiful pedestrian area, so we peeked in the cathedral, then Cynthia wanted to buy some specialty items, so we headed out and eventually found what we were looking for. A huge cleaning of the cathedral’s exterior was underway but as the scaffold is covered by massive pictures of that section of the cathedral, a passer-by might not even notice what was going on. At any rate, the cleaned parts were so good to look at in contrast to the parts blackened by years of traffic and weather.

St. Stephen's Cathedral-Note Cloth Covering Scaffolding Looks Like Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral-Note Cloth Covering Scaffolding Looks Like Cathedral

Eventually it was time to make our way to the meeting point with Petra and on back to the bus. We arrived back at the ship in time for lunch. That was followed by a relaxation time for the fab four so that we would be ready for dinner! It’s a tough life, but OK  if you don’t weaken. Seriously though, our dinner is early tonight (6pm) so that we can make it in time for the Mozart/ Strauss concert tonight. More to come on that.

Vienna Stock Exchange Conference Room (now concert hall)

Vienna Stock Exchange Conference Room (now concert hall)

After dinner we were treated to a wonderful concert. The bus took us into the centre to the concert hall which was formerly the stock exchange of the city. However, with the advent of computers and modern technology, such a large building was no longer needed. The building now houses concerts put on by the Vienna Residents’ Orchestra. About ten musicians were in the ensemble, made up almost equally of men and women. They played compositions by Mozart and Strauss. A mezzo soprano and a baritone sang for us, while appearances were made by a ballerina and her partner ,who danced to some of the music. All in all, it was a wonderful evening for some 400+ (our estimate) of us from (we think) five river ships docked in Vienna.

Goodbye for now and God bless.

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Viking River Cruise-Apr./May 2013 (9)

Lock Gates Closing Behind Us At Gabcikovo

Lock Gates Closing Behind Us At Gabcikovo

Monday April 29-Day 10

This morning we slept in a little longer as the ship was cruising nicely up the Danube. Around 1.00 pm, the Idun entered a set of locks at Gabcikovo where there is also a hydro power generating station. The locks here are some of the deepest on the Danube with a lifting capacity of about 60 feet. We were able to watch the whole process from the sun-deck of the ship.

Lunch followed as Don, Lynore, Cynthia and I were joined by Bob and Hazel, a lovely couple from Ontario. They were both well into their eighties. She was hard of hearing too, and had me pegged for a”Marcus” so I went with it. However, she didn’t believe me when I told her my middle name was Aurelius!

At 2pm, the Idun came to rest at its moorings near the centre of the city of Bratislava. I think this is one of the features I like most about the river cruise…we can often get off and within a 10 minute walk, we are in the centre of the city.DSCN8767

The city tour rolled around at 2.30, but I was on my own today as Cynthia decided to rest after a disturbed night and Don and Lynore were on a different trip. The tour took us to see the castle, destroyed by fire in 1811 and rebuilt in the 1950s.

We were dropped at the edge of the old town and our guide Bea walked us through. It was reminiscent of Prague with its cobble stoned streets and pastel coloured buildings.

Narrow Streets In The Old City

Narrow Streets In The Old City

I enjoyed the tour but was glad to be set free to walk back. I wandered around the square for a while looking at buildings, vendors’ stalls and even sat for a while people watching. The trams were interesting too, as many of them were brightly painted in mural form.

Colourful Tramcars

Colourful Tramcars

In spite of the breeze, the 25C temperature encouraged me to head back to the boat around 4.30. Cynthia was still snoozing when I reached the room, so hopefully she will feel a little better this evening.

Dinner came and went very nicely. Don and Lynore told us of their visit to a local home where the owner brewed his wine and gave them tastes. They bought some to try too and generally had a fine visit.

Wine Barrels At Entrepreneur's Home (Don and Lynore's Trip)

Wine Barrels At Entrepreneur’s Home (Don and Lynore’s Trip)

At 9 pm, on board came a Slovakian folk group. In total they were two violinists, a double bassist, a young man on the dulcimer, a female singer and two dancers. They played and danced local or national folk tunes and we clapped along with them. They were wonderful musicians and their energy was inspiring.

The vessel set off for Vienna at 11pm. If all goes well, we should dock at 6 am. It’s time for me to get my beauty sleep now, so goodnight and God bless.

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